The Turlock City Council approved Municipal Services Director Dan Madden’s proposal to cut two of his own employees despite the fact that it seems like the books were cooked with illegal funding numbers, commissioners requesting that they get a chance to look at the budget because they’ll be effected, city staff saying they weren’t even asked how they would make the cuts, a packed Council chamber full of people stating these areas of cuts are where they want their money spent, and other concerns.
These cuts came with suggestions from an ad-hoc committee including Councilman Ted Howze and Vice Mayor Kurt Vander Weide. Councilman Vander Weide was just ousted in this year’s election and participated in his last full Council Meeting.
The targeted $250,000 savings were to try to fill the $1.3 million deficit from the last budget’s approval to fund police and fire personnel expansions. Many felt that this was not a wise decision because the Council approved using Reserve Fund monies, that are usually used for one time expenditures, on personnel expansions which are reoccurring expenditures. This was also made during tough economic times with expected worse times and declining funds. The other ironic part was that this unintelligent fiscal decision was pushed through by the “conservative” members of Council including Councilmen Ted Howze, Kurt Spycher, and Kurt Vander Weide.
The approximate $250,000 budget cut basically eliminated two manger positions, Recreation Division Manager Judy Loretelli and Public Facilities Maintenance Manager Rick Harden. A maintenance worker position left vacant by a retired employee will remain unfilled also.
Recreation Superintendant Juliene Flanders spoke out criticizing the proposal made by her Director Dan Madden that the staff that would know what cuts could be made without negatively impacting services were not even consulted.
Councilwoman Hatcher, who was also taking part in her last Council Meeting as she chose not to run for re-election this year, agreed that usually the staff that specifically deals with their budgets are asked to come up with cuts totalling a desired budget savings.
Councilman Howze did state that Director Dan Madden was that staff and could have included other staff if he chose. Dan Madden was also the person responsible for the report containing many mathematical funding mistakes and showing possible illegal misallocation of funds. Madden will also not have to deal with the new restructured department as he will no longer be over Parks, Recreation, Assessments, Streets, Buildings, and Grounds because he proposed a new department head. The proposal seems like a good deal for him.
Councilman Ted Howze said that the proposal will not impact services provided to the community despite eliminating management and supervisor positions. The reality of human nature is that people need management and supervision, so Howze is sure that having no supervisor or manager over 70 employees in charge of maintenance and repair throughout the city will carry on without a hitch. The sad thing is that Director Dan Madden, who should know better, not only supported this but proposed it.
The new department including Parks, Recreation, Streets, Assessments, Buildings, and Grounds will be the biggest department with the most wide-spread areas of concern. The new department will also be the only one without a manager while there are some managers in the city over only a few employees. Councilman Howze also proposed that the new department head be paid at the lowest pay scale possible. Services will be impacted. This department may be set up to fail to push future privatizing propaganda.
While Mayor John Lazar wanted to wait until the Mayor’s Gang Task Force reported its proposal that includes using recreation and activities to curb people joining gangs, Councilman Howze, Spycher, and Vander Weide voted to move forward with the job cuts and the rest of the proposal’s details.
Councilwomen Elect Mary Jackson and Amy Bublak were both present at the meeting but did not speak.
This may be just the start of City of Turlock budget cuts but it is continued disregard for the public’s desire by leaders and city management. Turlock can only be thankful that Kurt Vander Weide was not re-elected and that the words “recall Howze and Spycher” are being spread around Turlock (again). This may be known as the most disappointing era in Turlock leadership.
People need to take action so Turlock isn’t another Vallejo and end up bankrupt with nothing but police and fire still wanting more.